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Patients invited to explain medical research on YouTube

Medical staff will be able to see clinical research through the eyes of their patients in a competition organised by the National Institute for Health Research.

The New Media Competition, now in its second year and third round, invites anyone involved in NIHR-funded research to produce a short film explaining an aspect of clinical or applied research to a general audience via YouTube. In this round, for the first time, there are two categories: one for researchers and one for patients and the public.

“This competition was the idea of the chief medical officer Sally Davies and is intended to give our trainees a way to engage with the public and to help generate enthusiasm about their research,” says Dawn Biram, competition organiser at the NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre in Leeds. “The films are a maximum of six minutes long and previous entries have tried various different approaches. We have had cartoons, people singing songs about their research and in one case they even had children dressing up as antibiotics and bacteria to illustrate a point about infectious disease.”

The organisers are not looking for Hollywood movie production values, Biram says. “It can be filmed using a mobile telephone, if necessary; technical standards are not what they will be judged on. All we ask is that it should inform, engage and enthuse.”

The winners will be decided based on the quality of the research they are describing and how well they explain it to the intended audience. That audience may be other researchers, patients or specific subsets of the general public such as children or the elderly. In addition, the research must have the potential to provide patient benefits within five years, Biram explains.

There will be a cash prize for the best film in each category, and both will be uploaded to the NIHR’s channel on YouTube. Researchers will also be able to use the films to explain their research at professional conferences, Biram says.

The entries will be judged by an audience of researchers and members of the public at Café Scientifique in Sheffield, part of a network of venues set up to promote dialogue between scientists and the public.

The deadline for entries is 30 March 2014.